In brief: After leaving behind its 3D XPoint venture with Intel, memory maker Micron is looking to expand its manufacturing capacity in Japan. The company is also considering the US for a DRAM factory, but that will depend on whether or not the US Congress can offer enough support in the form of tax incentives and subsidies.
Memory maker Micron Technology has announced plans to build a new manufacturing plant that will be located in the Hiroshima prefecture in western Japan. The new chip fab will produce advanced DRAM for the data center, as the company is shifting focus away from the consumer market after selling its 3D XPoint fab to Texas Instruments.
According to the Nikkan Kogyo newspaper, the project will cost around 800 billion yen (approximately $7 billion), and Micron is currently in the process of buying land near its existing campus in Hiroshima. Details are scarce at the time of this writing, but we do know the company is in talks with Japanese officials to secure subsidies, and those discussions are progressing well. If all goes to plan, the new facility will start operating in 2024.
At the same time, Micron is considering building a memory factory in the US. This will be a more challenging endeavor, as the cost of setting up a chip fab in North America is around 45 percent higher than doing the same in Asia. The Boise, Idaho-based company currently has a pilot production line in Virginia for less advanced memory chips that go into cars, but cutting-edge memory chips used in consumer devices and data centers are still manufactured at its other facilities in Singapore, Japan, and Taiwan.
Sumit Sadana, who is Micron's executive vice president and chief business officer, believes more memory chips should be made in the US as they represent around 30 percent of the global semiconductor market. As of writing, only two percent of all memory chips are manufactured in the US, and Sadana says improving this number is a matter of both national security and supply chain resiliency.
Like other companies in the semiconductor space, Micron is planning to invest up to $150 billion into research and development as well as expanding its manufacturing capacity over the next decade. However, the company warns that considerable bipartisan support is needed to make that happen. The US Congress is still debating over subsidies for building factories and investment tax credits for the expensive machines that will populate them.